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I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for approaching 7 years! I’ve tried god knows how many medications and had every test under the sun, but the pain still dominates every part of my life. Along with the stress and agony that chronic pain brings, I’m also constantly left feeling like my doctor isn’t helping me and that my pain is being ignored.
I’ve seen every doctor at my practice and a long list of specialists and somehow I end up right where I started, with no diagnosis or adequate pain relief.
Although I stopped chasing a diagnosis, I’m still actively in search of anything that can help me cope with the pain until or if I ever receive an official diagnosis.
But it’s tough to remain hopeful when no matter how much you explain your pain, doctors still seem to take things lightly and ignore your concerns.
This is something I experience way too often, and it’s something I’m dealing with at the moment.
The past few months have been pretty bad, I’ve been having flare-ups back to back and my usual natural pain relief remedies just weren’t working their usual magic.
So I did something I try my best to avoid – I got in touch with my doctor, to explain what’s been going on and to get some medical advice.
After filling out an online form detailing all of my symptoms, I received a call from my doctor; I assumed he’d read my form and had something helpful to suggest for my pain.
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Boy, was I wrong!
Instead, the call began with him asking me “why I wanted to speak with him” and “how could he help”, like seriously? I just provided all the relevant information and you’re asking what’s wrong!
Now I know things are really stressful at the moment, especially for doctors because of the pandemic, so I refrained from asking him if he was “fu***g serious” and instead gave him the benefit of the doubt.
I calmly went over how I was feeling and explained to him how much I was struggling. Following my in-depth explanation, he said, “well from looking at your record, we’ve already prescribed you a lot of medication. If those don’t help, unfortunately there is nothing I can do.”
The conversation ended with me having to tell him what to prescribe, whilst I held back tears and the urge to scream expletives at him down the phone.
This type of conversation isn’t unusual and unfortunately, it’s a common experience for many of us living with chronic pain. Therefore, it’s important to know what we can do to stop doctors from ignoring us or not taking our pain seriously.
MY DOCTOR HELPING IS NOT HELPING ME, BUT WHY?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering why your doctor isn’t doing their damn job and doing everything in their power to help you.
Although doctors are duty-bound to provide a quality of care to each patient, unfortunately, other factors can get in the way of them doing that, such as –
This is something I experience all the time. Doctors have dismissed my symptoms because apparently, it’s impossible for a young person to be in pain or have anything wrong with them.
This way of thinking has led to many, including myself being misdiagnosed or dismissed by their doctor, all because of their date of birth.
Being a young black woman with chronic pain has exposed me to how much racial biases and racism still exist.
Often it’s not blatant and it can be very subtle, but based on my experiences there is no doubt in my mind that it’s still very much there!
For example, over many centuries there has been the perception that black people have a higher pain threshold than white people. These biological stereotypes “can therefore impact the way racist biases play out in society and in medical settings and as a result, black patients are often dismissed or not provided with adequate treatment or pain relief.”
It may be 2021 but sexism and misogyny still very much exists and annoyingly it’s common within healthcare institutions.
Being a woman somehow makes male doctors, in particular, feel as though being a woman is the root cause of a lot of things relating to pain and illness.
Often when a woman has chronic pain there is the assumption that it’s because of their period, childbirth, hormones or menopause, which is just another way to dismiss her pain.
Rather than getting to the root cause of a woman’s chronic pain, doctors may instead pacify the issue by focussing on their emotional state or reproductive organs.
In today’s society, women are still looked at as emotional, baby-making machines that aren’t as strong as men. Such misogynistic views of women within health care can therefore lead to incorrect treatment or no treatment at all being offered, as they see women as emotional or over dramatic.
WHAT TO DO WHEN DOCTORS AREN’T HELPING ?
TRACK YOUR PAIN
Keeping track of your pain is not only a great way to manage your pain, but can also be a useful baseline for doctors to follow.
It will allow you to present your doctor with all the information possible that can help them to either rule things out or provide you with the most suitable treatment.
Here are a few apps and pain diaries you can use to keep a log of your pain.
Manage My Pain
Available free in the App Store and on Google Play
My Pain Diary: Chronic Pain & Symptom Tracker
Available in the App Store
All My Pain Shit: Pain Journal
“This pain tracker includes, appointments, pain rating during day and night, and relief measures.”
Chronic Pain & Symptom Tracker
“This detailed logbook also includes a mood tracker, food and water intake tracker, and room for noting environmental triggers, to provide a holistic view of your health and symptoms.”
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Although we’re told to stay away from google and not self diagnose, doing your own research can be helpful. Chronic pain can be complex and can also be the signal of other illnesses or conditions.
Using reliable sources, do your research and make a list of anything you feel is like your symptoms or experiences and mention them to your doctor.
Having a well-researched list will make it impossible for your doctor to dismiss your concerns, instead it will prompt them to do more investigation.
Using your pain tracker and all of your research will help you come up with deliberate questions. As soon as you feel your doctor, pulling away or trying to ignore you, ask a question.
For example, “I’ve noticed that after I eat, my pain worsens. What does this mean?” This will give your doctor a reason to listen and give a constructive response.
Asking questions will also show your doctor that you mean business and you’re not taking your pain lightly!
If you still feel like your doctor is being dismissive, repeat the question again. I have found this to be useful as it reinforces the fact that they either haven’t answered your questions or haven’t given you an adequate response.
ASK FOR A SECOND OPINION
If you’ve tried everything above and still feel like your doctor isn’t helping you, it’s probably a sign that you need to fire your doctor and get a second opinion.
You can go about getting another opinion in a few different ways:
- Ask for a referral to a specialist
- Make an appointment to see a different doctor
- Try another practice or hospital for a fresh set of eyes
FILE A COMPLAINT
Now, this is the last resort, but sometimes it’s necessary!
If you feel you’ve been dismissed, discriminated against or treated unfairly, file a complaint.
Write a letter or email to the head of the department, practice manager or senior clinician, and detail your experiences.
Where or how you submit a complaint will differ depending on the hospital, department or practice. So ask your doctor, an administrator, or use the information on their website to find the best way to file your complaint.
Hopefully, it doesn’t come to this but if it does, don’t feel frightened or ashamed as in certain circumstances this is the best way to get results.
Sitting through an appointment and leaving frustrated, thinking “for god’s sake, why isn’t my doctor helping me” is unfair and a clear sign of a doctor being negligent.
No matter your race, gender or illness, everyone deserves to be acknowledged, not ignored or dismissed. I hope these tips will help you put your foot down and get your doctor to listen and take your pain seriously!
Have you been feeling dismissed or ignored by your doctor? Or have you ever felt like your doctor wasn’t taking you seriously? What did you do? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.